Reading after Huntley & Palmers

Today Reading makes very little, although it would still seem to be a thriving place. Biscuits, bulbs and beer may never have been luxury products in comparison with, say, steel from Sheffield or coal from Newcastle, but at least they were real manufactured goods. Today nothing much seems to be made in Reading. Where, then, does the town get its money from?

After the war there was an acute shortage of manual workers in Reading. Huntley Boorne & Stevens aimed to attract women workers from economic black spots like South Wales with this booklet. (REDMG : 1996.223.39)

Legacies of the Three Bs

The current commercial use of the sites of the three archetypal Reading businesses offer some clues. The Huntley and Palmers site was demolished in 1978. Only one building currently remains - the old Factory Social Club, which has been turned into flats. The bulk of the old factory area is given over to large retail sales outlets and, on the site of the south factory, the headquarters of a large Insurance company. The area where Suttons offices and packing sheds once stood in the town centre are now largely given over to a glass-fronted office building. Their seed grounds on the edge of town have been concreted over and are the site of warehouses for service businesses and office buildings for computer software firms. The brewery site on the banks of the Kennet is now The Oracle shopping centre, dominated by chain stores.

This computer-generated image was produced by the developers to show how the Oracle area would look when building work had been completed. (REDMG : 1998.74.1)

Reading University employs many people - and draws a substantial student population into the town. However, as indicated above, the town is now largely dependent on office workers, computers … and shopping. In many ways it has returned to being what it began as - a market place for the surrounding area.

Views of the Market Place in the nineteenth century show an equally busy scene. Now, rather than farmers selling corn from carts, shoppers peruse chain stores for consumer goods. (REDMG : 1999.47.7)

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